AL HAMNIK: Thibodeau's MVP on Bulls is the entire team, who else?

2014-04-19T17:15:00Z 2014-04-21T00:02:08Z AL HAMNIK: Thibodeau's MVP on Bulls is the entire team, who else?Al Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
April 19, 2014 5:15 pm  • 

CHICAGO | So, what do we really know about the Bulls after an 82-game regular season?

They play defense like their lives depend on it, and to some extent, they do with the NBA's worst offense.

Tom Thibodeau should be coach of the year, having kept the ship afloat without Derrick Rose, watching Luol Deng be traded at midseason, and still winning 48 games.

Joakim Noah, once thought of as a complete goof and wasted draft pick, is your defensive player of the year. If he doesn't get it, there should be an investigation.

 In a season of surprises, most of them pleasant, I asked Thibodeau which Bulls player impressed him the most heading into tonight's playoff opener with Washington.

You'll never guess.

"I'd say, in totality, the entire team," Thibodeau replied. "We took a lot of hits early on. I think the fight has been great. I think the growth has been great. As I look at each one of our players, I'd say they all had major contributions to our team in overcoming the circumstances that we were in.

"You have to make a conscious decision as to what you're gonna do. Are you gonna curl up in the corner, or are you gonna come out swinging and fight? And that's what these guys have done."

Thibodeau wasn't done. When praise is merited, he continues dealing like a Kevin Durant shooting spree.

"I love the mindset of our team," he said. "The core group has been together for a long time. They helped move the young guys along."

That's Thibodeau for you. It's a team game and you admire him for never wavering from that approach.

But someone, starter or reserve, surely must've brought a rare smile to his face on most nights. The dude does smile, abeit as often as area gas prices go down.

"I thought the addition of D.J. (Augustin) was huge for us," Thibodeau did say. "But guys have grown and that's out of necessity."

Standing a mere 5-foot-8 without shoes, Augustin was acquired on Dec. 13 and is now the Bulls' leading scorer -- as a reserve.

Thibodeau has said his backup point guard "saved" the season but he won't single out any one player not named Derrick Rose, for obvious reasons.

"I look at where Taj (Gibson) is," Thibodeau continued. "I look at where Joakim is. D.J. came in and was terrific. Kirk (Hinrich), in his role, was great. Jimmy (Butler) has been terrific throughout. Carlos has handled his (limited) role very well.

"Nazy (Mohammed) has done a good job for us. Tony (Snell) has done a good job for us. It's the entire group, everyone doing their job."

Sounds like Gregg Popovich, doesn't he?

"In order to function well as a team, you need everyone on the roster to be into the team," Thibodeau said.

"I think we're fortunate to have those types of guys."

The Bulls need everyone at their best in the playoffs, beginning against the Washington Wizards.

Chicago won the regular-season matchup, 2-1, but there is a big concern, offensively.

Combined points in the series: Bulls 277, Wizards 276.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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